The name of Laura Liotta's firm, Sam Brown Inc. Healthcare Communications, has its roots in her family history—specifically that of her grandfather, Sam Mastrangelo, who changed his name to Sam Brown and then passed it down through his family and eventually to his granddaughter's firm.

In a landscape where PR, marketing and advertising are increasingly blurring together, Liotta says that corporate communications "is really focused on helping corporate reputation and creating engagement with all stakeholders, and that really is a function of public relations," though its scope also inculdes such areas as HR and employee communications.

For communicators to best navigate the corporate communications area in biotech, Liotta says that they need to help companies "establish their corporate brand, their corporate message, their presence. They need to communicate to investors to excite them about their science and their technology."

She also tells Simon that communications can play a central role in making medical breakthroughs happen. "I think our job is really specific to help people communicate and understand their value proposition to all of their audiences in a way that people understand. And so, it is really an important part of the of the mix to helping a breakthrough really get out there."

Healthcare communications also has the advantage of being extremely newsworthy. "It has new science, new data. So, I think it's easier in this space than versus hotels or travel to keep it exciting. We're always working on news, helping patients and human-interest stories."

Liotta also stresses the importance of media training. "If you really come into an interview and have a business objective or some communications that you want to get out, you have to be very well prepared. You need to understand what your key messages are, how you're really going to impact the interview. A lot of times people who are doing interviews will take you down a path and expect you to have the aha moment with them. We want to flip that on its head."

When it comes to spokespeople, she says the best ones—whether high-profile celebrities or local market personalities—are "the most authentic, who really can tell their personal stories."

But mainly, the skills needed for successful communications, she says, are "really starting with good insights and data and using technologies that are available today to really understand what your audiences are thinking, to create solid messaging foundations and to use all the tools available to us to reach our audiences."

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D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.